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eInvoicing Documentation

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eInvoicing in Belgium

Responsible

Federal Public Service Policy and support (BOSA)

NB: BOSA works in close cooperation with other public entities at federal and regional levels as well as the private sector.

Legislation

The transposition of Directive 2014/55/EU is complete (Law of 7 April 2019);

Transposed the Directive 2014/55/EU

YES

Use of the extra year for compliance of non-central entities (by )

NO

Mandatory for

Submitting: Economic operators of Regional government of Flanders and regional government of Brussels 
Receiving and processing: Central, regional and local contracting authorities and entities.

Standard(s)

The European standard on eInvoicing is fully implemented under UBL. 

Platform

The Belgian approach is platform-agnostic.

More specifically, it relies on the Peppol interoperability model (i.e. Peppol eDelivery Network) that specifies the proper, consensus-based set of rules that allows cooperation across multiple platforms, and its resulting open and standards-based ecosystem.

The Belgian public sector supports this approach by, among others, operating Mercurius, a "mailroom" dedicated to the exchange of electronic procurement (eProcurement) documents. This tool allows any Belgian contracting authority to receive eInvoices, is aligned with the Peppol model and part of the resulting open ecosystem.

The choice of Peppol considerably facilitates the alignment of the Belgian public sector with the Directive 2014/55.

Use of CIUS and Extensions

YES  Peppol BIS Billing 3.0 (to public sector)


Legislation

Transposition of European Directives

The federal law modifying the VAT code of 17.12.2012  transposes EU Directive 2010/45/EU on VAT, which puts eInvoicing on an equal footing with paper invoicing, legalising the use of eInvoices as of 1 January 2013. This law links the use of eInvoices with the willingness of the receivers to process it. This law does not mandate the use of eInvoices in B2G procurement.

The federal law on public procurement of 7 April 2019 transposes the EU Directive 2014/55/EU, which obliges European public sector administrations to receive and process eInvoices compliant with the European standard on eInvoicing (EN).

Regional decisions

The regional government of Flanders decided in 2016 to make the use of eInvoices in B2G procurement also mandatory for economic operators as of 1 January 2017 for all its regional entities.

Since 1 November 2020, only eInvoices are accepted for all public contracts awarded by the administrations and public organisations of the Brussels-Capital Region.

eInvoicing platform and eInvoicing management solutions

Belgian context, approach and vision about eInvoicing

The Belgian federal government initiated a program to support the adoption of eInvoicing in 2012. The expected benefits of the eInvoicing adoption in Belgium were estimated to EUR 3.37 billion/year. On one hand, this business case expresses the long-term ambition for an eInvoicing massive adoption. On the other hand, the fragmentation of the eInvoicing landscape is recognised as one of the main obstacles to such massive take-up.

The combination of the long-term ambition with this identified barrier set a clear context to the different phases of the program: the Belgian public sector must adopt solutions for receiving eInvoices that contribute to removing the observed fragmentation. This statement is consistent with the key finding of the initial pilot project for eInvoicing to the public sector (2013-2015, organised by the Belgian federal government). 

By stating that the European Norm (i.e. EN) should be usable for B2B transactions, consideration 22 of the Directive 2014/55/EU supports the same concern and commissioned standardisation bodies to deliver not only a standard for eInvoicing to the public sector but an intersectoral common denominator standard, complementing existing local and sectoral standards. 

Directive 2014/55 applies specifically to eInvoicing in public procurement. While it creates an obligation for the public sector to adopt the European Norm, thanks to the intersectoral scope of the Norm, it also potentially contributes to the defragmentation. However, it requires additional components to seize such an opportunity. 

The main additional essential practical component to achieve defragmentation, is adoption of a common framework that goes beyond semantic and syntactic interoperability, and also encompasses juridical security, connectivity and governance, providing a global and consistent model that enables unlimited interoperability. The result of the European large scale pilot “Peppol” (2009-2012) provides this additional component. The ecosystem resulting from its coordinated application delivers the diversity of solutions required to reach massive adoption in a context of fair competition.

Beyond the identification of such global and market neutral interoperability model, it is recognized that a suitable mobilization and coordination of the Belgian enterprises, public sector, IT sector and other service providers in the field of invoice processing is key to the massive adoption of electronic invoicing. Such collective action calls for additional alignment, capitalizing on the results achieved up to now. These results are presented below.

Practical solutions and other supporting initiatives

The Mercurius platform, the mailroom of the Belgian public sector for Peppol documents

In the context of the eInvoicing adoption program described above, the federal government set up the Mercurius platform, which facilitates systems integration between senders and receivers. Conceptually, Mercurius takes the role of the main mailroom for the public sector, thereby (a) relieving  invoice senders from the burden of set bilateral connections with all public sector receivers, and (b) supporting public sector entities in their eInvoicing adoption journey by providing them with support. Additionally, Mercurius is equipped with a web portal that is accessible to all Belgian organizations, and provides track and trace services to senders, receivers and their service providers. The portal also supports the manual submission of invoices, to give economic operators more freedom in their own eInvoicing adoption journey.

Mercurius is fully and exclusively aligned with the Peppol, standardised interoperability model and its resulting open ecosystem. This approach provides a comprehensive solution to the fragmentation issues. Such platforms are actively encouraged to also contribute to the coordinated growth and sophistication of the common digital infrastructure that conditions our digital future, by aligning themselves with the Peppol model.

The Mercurius platform can also convert transmitted documents from machine-readable (XML) to human-readable (PDF) format, depending on the respective capabilities of the business parties. This function is designed to encourage the parties to move to structured electronic documents, and avoid penalising smaller entities, leverage the impact of volumes on adoption and maximise inclusiveness.

In order to maximise the consistency between different public sector entities, Mercurius is complemented by communication flows, to disseminate key information in the public sector about Mercurius evolution as well as its broad context, and to collect feedback from their public sector users (and indirectly from the suppliers of these entities).

As time goes by and new use cases arise, the Mercurius platform also supports outbound invoicing (G2B) and two-ways ordering.

Business Experts group on eInvoicing

In order to reach consensus with the infrastructure implementation, the Belgian government relied on Fédération des Enterprises de Belgique (FEB) to facilitate the organisation of an expert group including different types of eInvoicing stakeholders. This organisation brings around the table representatives of all stakeholders with an interest in eInvoicing (companies, authorities, solution providers, accounting federation, etc.). It is tasked with identifying concrete solutions to the problems faced by companies in implementing eInvoicing and provide appropriate recommendations.

Hermes platform, the bridge between eInvoice senders and enterprise not yet able to receive them

In line with the inclusive approach described above and with the objective of smoothening transition towards massive adoption of eInvoicing, the Hermes platform provides a bridge between the entities capable of sending invoices complying with the European Norm, and receivers who have not yet found a suitable tool to receive such invoices natively. It delivers the following benefits:

  • Senders no longer have to worry about what to send to whom: one format for everyone, and Hermes bridges the gap when necessary
  • Recipients who are not yet equipped can continue to receive and process their invoices manually (in pdf), while learning which solution best suits their needs
  • The increasing volume of structured electronic invoices encourages the IT industry to develop more solutions and to market them at better conditions
  • Thanks to Hermes, the public authorities receive more structured electronic invoices, which allows them to get a quicker return on their recent investments in this field

The Hermes platform is also equipped with a web portal that provides track and trace services to the senders and receivers.

Hermes is designed as a temporary solution. In future, with the widespread take-up of eInvoicing, it will no longer be necessary to convert eInvoicing into invoices which can be read by people. Hermes will no longer be necessary. It should be seen as an incentive, intended to prompt structured exchanges, while the IT sector develops the appropriate reception and processing tools, and markets them under attractive conditions.

einvoice.belgium.be website

This website is maintained by the federal government. It gives an overview of eInvoicing in Belgium. It is also designed as a hub focusing on the subject and giving access to the partners websites. Partners are organisations from different sectors (Public sector, IT sector, federations), that are also mobilized for the adoption of eInvoicing in Belgium. It also publishes success stories and cases over enterprises, accountants, IT service providers and administrations.

eInvoice.belgium.be provides more in-depth information about the subjects that are presented on this page.

Approach of receive and processing eInvoicing

As described in the previous section, the Belgian public sector receives eInvoices from any sender that meets the Peppol interoperability specifications. The Mercurius platform helps the entities composing the Belgian public sector by providing a mailroom service, thereby facilitating the technical aspects for both the sending and receiving side. 

eInvoice processing is the responsibility of each entity. It highly depends on the business, technical capabilities and organisational context of each entity.

eInvoicing implementation in sub-central level contracting authorities 

Since the launching of the program, a major concern is to avoid different implementations across different public sector entities.  Thanks to the preliminary works conducted between 2013 and 2016, a common set of solution components, Peppol and Mercurius, has been identified and is broadly adopted in the public sector. This involves that there are no specific considerations at the sub-central level with respect to eInvoicing implementation.

Status on the implementation of the European Standard on eInvoicing (EN)

All Belgian entities can receive eInvoices compliant to the European standard on eInvoicing, using the components described above. For all the eInvoices received through Mercurius, the syntax used is OASIS UBL 2.1. 

Monitoring eInvoicing implementation

There is a monitoring system in place at the central and sub-central levels. Mercurius ensures partially the monitoring, as the usage of this platform is not mandatory.  

The measurement units for this monitoring are the number of suppliers using eInvoicing, the number of invoices that are submitted electronically and the number of public sector entities receiving eInvoices through Mercurius. The latest statistics are available on this website

The Government of Flanders reports on its results on a monthly basis. Nowadays, close to 80% of all invoices received by the Government of Flanders were fully-fledged eInvoices based on Peppol specifications. Overall, the growth in the percentage of eInvoices received over the past 4 years has increased from 8 % of invoices being electronic in early 2017 to 78 % in March 2021.

Use of Core Invoicing Usage Specifications (CIUS) at national level

According to the eInvoicing Directive, Belgium uses Peppol BIS BILLING 3.0 that correspond to the CIUS EN 16931. According to the Registry of CIUS (Core Invoice Usage Specifications) and Extensions - eInvoicing User Community - CEF Digital (europa.eu), this CIUS is the only one that can be used for both cross-sectors and cross-border exchange, thereby supporting the defragmentation objective. There is no ad hoc or national CIUS version. To date, no need for such an additional specification has been identified in the context of public procurement.

Additional information

For more information, please visit einvoice.belgium.be




Are you aware of further developments on eInvoicing B2G in this country? Contact us via the link Something wrong with this page? at the bottom of this page.
You can also access the 2016, 2017, 20182019 and 2020 eInvoicing Country Sheets via the eInvoicing User Community.

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Last updated:  Jun 29, 2021 10:48